If you’re a good little film geek, then you saw Alex Cox’s Repo Man years ago. The mid-80’s cult classic– featuring Emilio Estevez, a very strange car, and a plot involving aliens– has earned its reputation over the past few decades, and ever since its release Cox has been asked about the possibility of a follow-up. While Repo Chick isn’t a direct sequel to Repo Man– you’d be hard-pressed to find the connective tissue here, unless you’re a mega-fan– it is…well, it’s something. Read on to find out if Repo Chick is worth your time after the jump, folks.
Like many of you, I saw the “trailer” for Repo Chick at some point last year and felt a wave of confusion wash over me: what the hell did anything I was seeing onscreen have to do with Repo Man, the 80’s cult classic starring Emilio Estevez and directed by film-geek favorite Alex Cox? Did it have anything to do with Repo Man? And why did it…look like that? Was this a proof-of-concept video? Did somebody lose a bet? What fresh hell was this?
As it turns out, Repo Chick looks exactly like that infamous trailer: all blue-screen and loud costumes and an script so obnoxious, you’ll swear it was written by someone channeling Sandra Bernhardt (how’s that for a dated reference?). It’s apparent that Cox wrote a script for Repo Chick, and it’s clear that he was emotionally invested in the idea of directing a film called Repo Chick. Unfortunately, it’s also painfully obvious that Cox didn’t have the money to bring this script to life, and that he must’ve decided– in the spirit of indie film, perhaps– that he was just going to go ahead and make it, anyway.
Sometimes this kind of thinking works out to our benefit. Sometimes, a dude just writes a script, picks up a camera, and we get Clerks. Of course, the inverse is also true: sometimes a dude “writes” a “script” and picks up a digital camera, rents a blue-screen, buys a case of hair-spray, and makes Repo Chick. Accepting that anyone involved would have wanted their name on this thing is beyond disturbing: it indicates a sort-of group psychosis, or perhaps the rampant abuse of hallucinogenics.
More troubling is this: why did this film need to be made? Did the script say something that the world couldn’t go another day without hearing? There’s a barely-coherent plot running through the film, but it’s all pitched like a live-action cartoon, with every actor appearing in a bizarre, cartoonish outfit meant to convey the entire personality of their character (y’know, when the way-too-on-the-nose dialogue and freakishly ham-fisted exposition don’t cut it). Rather than attempt to put this one into my own words, allow me to present the plot of Repo Chick to you as it was first introduced to me: by reading the back of the DVD cover box. Here’s what it says, word for word:
“Spoiled rich girl Pixxi De La Chasse has been disinherited from her family due to her numerous arrests for bad driving, her failure to get a job and her overall lack of some semblance of a responsible life. When her car gets repossessed, Pixxi ends up getting hired by the repo men Arizona Gray and Aguas, and she soon becomes the best repo chick around with the help of her entourage– punk girl confidante, model-looks bodyguard and flaming hair stylist. While on the hunt for some antique railroad cars which carry a million-dollar bounty reward (also being sought out by a secret government agency!), clueless Pixxi ends up on a wacky train ride which is actually a plot by a terrorist organization. If their demands for the criminalization of gold are not met, the the train (whose caboose is carrying long-missile growler bombs from the Soviet Communist era!) is headed straight for downtown Los Angeles.”
That’s what the cover box says. Have you read a cover box lately? If so, then you realize that the description above isn’t just overly-wordy, way-too-detailed, and slathered in questionable grammar: it’s also borderline incomprehensible. To be fair, though, every one of those descriptive phrases could be leveled against the film. Repo Chick is– by turns– overly-wordy, way-too-detailed, and packed with questionable grammar. The difference between what you’ve just read and the actual film is this: whereas that cover box is borderline incomprehensible, Repo Chick is completely incomprehensible.
Most people aren’t going to be able to get past the way the film looks. When I tell you that every frame of the film features actors against a blue-screen, I mean that every frame of this film features actors shot against a blue-screen: Two actors talking? Blue-screen it; Three actors sitting in a completely non-descript room? Blue-screen that ass; Repo Chick also features a wide assortment of driving sequences, moments where characters have to travel from one location (which is generally just an obvious miniature) to another (which is, of course, yet another miniature), and those also feature an appearance from a blue-screen. Obviously, this was a decision based on budgetary restrictions, but the overall effect is akin to watching a child’s TV show that simply wasn’t ready to be put on the air. I’ve seen locally-shot commercials on public broadcasting that had twice the production value.
It’s not that the film looks ugly and cheap. It’s that it’s all so amateurishly put-together. It’s not “stylish”, it’s not “clever”, it’s not “ingenious”. It’s ugly and stupid and it made my head feel on the verge of exploding.
Of course, the vocal minority of fans that will support Alex Cox’s work here are going to say that people like me– y’know, the ones that run screaming from this film– just “don’t get it”, or that it’s “over our heads”. Sadly, I don’t think that’s what’s at work here. I’ve seen films before (very few, to be honest, but there must have been one or two at some point) where I felt like I wasn’t “getting” what the director was trying to say. When that happens, I re-watch the film and attempt to get on the director’s wavelength. When Repo Chick ended, my only impulse was to decide between using the DVD as a drink coaster or as a tool for picking up my dog’s crap in the backyard. Y’know, kind of a “cinematic pooper scooper” or something.
No, it’s not that I didn’t “get” Repo Chick. To be frank, there seems to be very little to “get” here. Cox wrote the film in addition to directing, and I can only assume that what he put to paper was the result of a long, bitter acid nightmare. Though I’ve never been a big fan of Repo Man– it’s always felt like a movie that was very much of its time, and (perhaps fortunately) it’s a time that I simply wasn’t alive to experience or appreciate on the level that Repo Man presents– I’ve always appreciated its quirkiness and the punky way that Cox put the film together. But none of the directing skill, writing talent, or ability to get believable performances from actors that Cox displayed in Repo Man is on display in Repo Chick.
So, the film’s ugly. So, the script is incoherent. So, none of the acting is worth the film (?) it’s been printed on. Is there anything redeeming about the film, a single positive thing that I could say that might offer some hope for fans of Cox’s or anyone hoping that I’m simply being hyperbolic in this review? In a word, no. This was– without question– the single most painful experience that I have endured in the name of reviewing a film for Collider.com. Keep in mind that one of my first DVD review assignments here involved watching All About Steve, or that another recent one was Grown-Ups: them’s steep words. I would be absolutely dumbfounded to find myself in a conversation with someone willing to defend what Alex Cox has done with Repo Chick: it is simply a terrible, terrible movie.
But let’s say you think I’m stupid. Let’s say you don’t read critics for warnings: you’re gonna get yourself a copy of Repo Chick, Collider’s critics be damned, and you’d like to know what sort of special features the DVD comes packaged with. Here they are, listed with as little effort as possible: Repo Chick movie trailer, 27 min. behind-the-scenes featurette. That’s it, perhaps mercifully. I confess that I did not watch either of these special features, A) because I’d already seen the trailer, and I’d be damned if I was going to spend another three minutes letting Repo Chick push me ever closer to the edge of flat-out madness, and B) because I didn’t care how Repo Chick was made.
I don’t care how an episode of The View comes to fruition, either, or how white supremacists keep their sheets so white. I don’t care what Rosie O’Donnell’s favorite books are, and I don’t care what Kim Jong-il’s favorite movies are. I don’t care about these things because I have an active dislike for the things governing them, and watching a half-hour featurette on the making of Repo Chick would have been the same thing as getting to the bottom of any of these mysteries: it would only serve to deepen my dislike for the “film” in question.
One final warning, and then I’m going to go hang myself: do not pick up a copy of Repo Chick for your next “let’s get a bunch of people together with a bunch of beers in my living room and dogpile on a bad movie” party. Repo Chick will not be enjoyable even in an ironic sense. Repo Chick will not be “so bad it’s good”. Repo Chick will not look good on your shelf in-between Troll 2 and Manos: Hands of Fate. It as an abomination, a film that has no reason to exist, a mind-numbingly shrill, tacky, wretched, depressing piece of entertainment that should not even “be seen to be believed”.
Eff Repo Chick, right in its blue-screen.